There was a time whenever doping in racing was uncovered it was horse that was got at. Not any more. Jockeys are now being stood down, and in their case “got at” doesn’t apply. The administration of drugs is voluntary, and the practice is not confined to strugglers, or those who claim it is for medicinal purpose.
Multiple champion, Kieran Fallon, got a rap from the French racing authorities a number of years back having been found guilty of taking cocaine, and last year the less well known, Jack Mitchell, was banned in England for a similar offence.
There is probably no other jockey in the world better known or as popular as Frankie Dettori. Champion on a number of occasions, he was given universal recognition after riding all seven winners on the 1996 Royal Ascot card, Queen Elizabeth 11 hero, Mark Of Esteem, among them.
Why Dettori found it necessary to dabble in a banned substance earlier this year, reported to be cocaine, only he knows, but having been collared on the day he rode at Longchamp, he now faces six months on the sidelines. Worse than that, the wonderful reputation he has earned for himself has been tarnished.
If Lance Armstrong’s drug-taking measures ten on the scale, Dettori’s would only be about two. But no different than the American biker’s, Dettori’s walk on the wrong side sends out a misleading message, giving the younger element in all sports, not only racing, the idea that this is the way to go get to the top.
There’s a better story to tell about Dundalk’s saddle siblings, Stephen and Shane Gray. Stephen, who takes the majority of his rides in the National Hunt sphere, was at his very best guiding Ros Brin home a ‘chase winner at Clonmel last Thursday, while his younger brother was spotted on the racing channel, At The Races, the night before riding one for leading South African trainer, Mike de Kock, at Turffontein.
Ros Brin is trained at George Kingston’s Monasterboice yard and is owned by a syndicate which includes former Hunterstown Rovers footballers, Kieran and Jim Matthews. She was taken to the front early on by Gray, and after that resisted all attempts to dismantle her lead.
Attached to Tommy Stack’s Co Tipperary stable, Shane Gray is on a work experience break in South Africa. He couldn’t be better placed as de Kock is not only his country’s top trainer, but in his many international forays has picked up the biggest of prizes. He provides his latest recruit, who’s still an apprentice, with a wonderful opportunity to hone his skills in the saddle.